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The sheer wrongness of this Series is what makes it so right

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

So ultimately, this World Series proves what we have known all along -- baseball is really what you want to make it out to be, making it the most flexible rather than least flexible of sports.   And if it took an entire sport to blow itself to bits and another to produce two of the least interesting games in its history, then so be it.   There is a reason, after all, why we have such different sports at our disposal -- I mean, other than the fact that we love the rich Corinthian leather smell of roasted money.   It's because some of us need high-speed crashes and trash talking and colored outfits and fireworks, like in football, or Manchester City star Mario Balotelli's guest bathroom. Hey, you might not like soccer, but you can appreciate a guy who sets the $4.8 million rented house he's living in by setting off incendiaries out the window of the john.

But we digress.

And some of us need leaping and soaring and jazz and elegance, like basketball when it is played by young athletes rather than by old sclerotic quarter-chokers from the 18th century, and some need speed and ice and sticks and violence and grace, like hockey. And precision like golf, and control like tennis, and danger like auto racing, and semi-felonious but sanctioned beatdowns like boxing or MMA.

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And some need discussion and re-discussion and argument and amazement and second- and third- and fourth-guessing, and the sound of reputations being done and undone all in a few innings. Like baseball.   Like Game 5 of what is becoming in many ways the most fascinating World Series in 20 years between two teams who represented ratings death when the games began. St. Louis and Texas, a seemingly nothing matchup that has burgeoned into an extended three-dimensional chess match that is actually a series of accidents where pieces get knocked off the board and get put elsewhere to the great confusion of both the players and the observers.

In short, it is deliciously slow chaos in St. Louis and Arlington, so much so that even the traditional bleats for instant replay in the wake of umpire Ron Kulpa's blown call in Game 3 seem now to vaguely miss the point.

It is believing all along that there are people who can master the thinking, strategizing and playing of this sport, only to learn that it can never actually be done, and certainly not on command. It is, in short, a glorious revelation of what is possible in the imagination when it frees itself of convention and mathematics.

Now please, let's not have the sabermetricians and replay wonks rising up on their hind sandals and shrieking about the heresy. In fact, you should be enjoying the heresy, and the human element, and the things that separate this from football and the more hidebound pursuits. The sheer delicious wrongness of this series is what makes it so right, whether you want to laugh with or wag your finger at it. It doesn't have to be your way to be fun.

Tony La Russa and Ron Washington have used the percentages as a placemat throughout the series, creating as a result the most entertaining manage-with-the-managers series since the day Bill Veeck deputized 1,200 St. Louis Browns fans to run a game instead of manager Zack Taylor. Albert Pujols made a game by himself, and Mike Napoli another. The pitching has been brilliant at the oddest times, and disappointing when you were sure it would be masterful. Indeed, by comparison, the 2010 World Series when the Giants simply pitched the Rangers to death was really quite a sterile match. Bruce Bochy managed the Giants like he knew the outcomes ahead of time, whereas this series is being managed by two men who seem eager to try things just to see how they'll turn out.

And even the scolds who enjoy when Washington or La Russa guess wrong because that's what baseball means to them are getting it wrong. Baseball is being redone in this series, and if it offends purists and math majors alike, well, shut up. You hate intentional walks? Too bad -- La Russa brought in Lance Lynn to administer one and then leave the game, which seems incredibly daft until you realize that it has happened in two other World Series, 1959 and 1992.

You hate sacrifices, and giving up outs, and making too many switches. Well, bite me. You might be right and all, but this series didn't denigrate the game As It Should Be Played. It made it better because it has been unpredictable and wacky and even shambolic.

In short, you're into this, or you don't have a sense of humor, or you hate baseball because you live in a one-flavor world. There is room for lots of sports even in these perilous economic times, and there is room for lots of ways to play the oldest of them.

This is that series, and if you want to complain that you're seeing too many guys in clown shoes, well, shut up on that, too. That's the charm, you ashen-faced mopes. This is why you don't sweat out TV ratings or marketing opportunities or who is singing the bloody God Bless America or even who's in the booth. Take the pageant for what it is, and enjoy it. You got two games left, and like the song says, you don't know what you got 'til it's gone.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com


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